Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was hoping Sean Kuraly could jump-start the team’s depth when he moved the 28-year-old from the fourth line to the third-line pivot role and moved centerman Charlie Coyle out to the wing.
So far, so good.
Kuraly recorded his third point in as many games Tuesday in an eventual 4-3 overtime loss to the host New Jersey Devils. Kuraly crashed the back post and scored a third-period goal, having benefitted from a beautiful right-to-left pass from winger David Pastrnak.
Kuraly now has two goals and one assist in his last three games. He had scored two goals in his first 41 games this season while centering the fourth line. Cassidy was asked if he has been surprised by Kuraly’s production since making the change.
He provided an extensive assessment.
“We’ve all watched him for four years, I think we know what his strengths and weaknesses are,” Cassidy said on a postgame video conference after Tuesday’s loss. “We were looking to build a bigger line. He had been struggling offensively, he hadn’t scored in a while, not that we’re looking for offense every night but all of our players we keep an eye on that stuff. So was (Charlie) Coyle. So put them together, moved Coyle to the wing, bigger bodies we talked about that, we wanted to get a line like that, all things being equal in terms of health.
“Just about a guy finding his game. He’s found it later in the year. Good for us, good for him,” Cassidy continued. “He’s going to the net. His goals are not a-typical of how he would score them … went to the net tonight a number of times, been going to the net a lot lately, getting those bang-bang plays. That’s how he’s going to score goals.”
Coyle snapped his scoring drought with a goal three games prior, too. Fellow third-line winger Nick Ritchie had three points in the prior two games entering Tuesday.
“… In general that’s how he’s going to create offense, and this time of the year, those goals are important,” Cassidy said of Kuraly. “Our (defense is) doing a little better job getting pucks through, shooting for sticks so he can benefit from that being a bigger body around that net.
“Those are the things we know about him and what we’ve seen. We were hoping it would come together with some offense, but most importantly be a good 200-foot line, hard to play against and physical. We got both sides of it.”
Unfortunately for the Kuraly line, Coyle left Tuesday’s game during the third period and did not return. Cassidy did not have much of an update on the veteran forward, but hopefully, it won’t prove to be anything that keeps him out long term. Because the Bruins, specifically the third line, have been showcasing just how good Boston can be with that type of depth.